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MXL 603s...yowsa.

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I got a real chance to try out the MXL 603s that I bought a while back.

I won a bid to record a local community symphony orchestra (I also wound up providing sound and lights on short notice, but that's another story...).

Here's the setup:

1 X-Y pair of Shure SM81 for reinforcement (for the sides of the room...audience was nearly "in the round").

1 X-Y pair of MXL 603S

1 Audio Technica boundary mic (don't know the model#) mounted on 18" square of plexiglas.

The X-Y pairs were both on a QuikLok studio boom, on the audience floor 3' below the stage, left-right positioned just stage right of the podium (towards the first violin section), tilted down to aim just past/behind the first row of musicians.

The AT boundary mic was at the back of the room behind the audience...for ambience more than anything.

The room was 80' X 160', with the orchestra situated along the center of the long wall, aimed across the short dimension of the room.  The room used to be a show horse arena, and has concrete floors, but wood walls and roof.  When empty, the place is a reverberant hell.  There were approximately 1100 people at the concert (sold out show), and the orchestra is approximately 90 pieces.

Mics went down a plain-vanilla Whirlwind Medusa snake to a Soundcraft Spirit LX7-24 board.  The SM81s were the only thing live to the mains, but I took all five mics from the direct outs on the channels to my DAW.

Intel D875PBZ board
P4 2.8GHz/800FSB
1GB DDR400 dual-channel RAM
Delta 1010
Vegas 4

Recording was done at 48/24, and levels never exceeded -25dB on any channel on the 1010.

Mixing mostly consisted of setting a relative level for the mics and applying a teensy bit of EQ and compression (UAD-1 Pultec and Fairchild, respectively).  I then used a dedicated mastering EQ program "Har-Bal" to do the final tweaks to EQ. Pulled the results into Sound Forge to maximize levels, burn it to CD in Vegas, and we're done.

Now, I know I wasn't using DPA or Schoeps mics into Millennia preamps, but I thought it turned out at least okay...maybe even better.

Now, I go through all of this for two reasons...

A) to tell you that I LOVE the sound of those 603s for symphony.  The SM81s just sounded...flat, dull, sterile...I dunno how else to describe it.  The MXLs sounded warm and alive.  Specs say that they have a peak at around 10k...but it was the warmth that I noticed.

B) to have you guys tell me what you think of the end product.  I rendered an MP3 at 160kbps for about 1:30 (which is about all that will fit in the 2MB upload allowance).


Scott Stillwell

PS:  I like the new place, Harvey!

Sorry, I just noticed that I phrased part of that badly.

The stage was raised 3' above the floor of the arena, the mic stand was on the floor of the arena, extended full length, so that the mics were at a height about 6' above the conductor's head, but were actually somewhere to the left of his left shoulder.

Hope that's more clear.


Wow, Scott, great job of recording. Pretty amazing for $150 worth of microphones, isn't it?

You betcha!  

Thank you, Harvey.  I read as much as I could when I was selecting SD condenser mics (no real local source for borrowing/renting them...music stores have been dropping like flies around here, including one that I spent 15 years building a relationship with), and was agonizing over spending what I really couldn't afford at the moment for a matched pair of MC012 from The Sound Room...decided that I really COULDN'T afford them at the moment, and took comfort from your opinions of the 603S.  I'll still probably get the MC012s later.  Along with Lord knows what else.  

The next thing I want to try for this type of recording is a M-S setup, or a modified M-S setup proposed by some of the folks that do live recording for PBS.  One M-S setup facing forward at a reasonable audience distance, one M-S setup (or was it cardioid?) facing backwards into the audience, just at the boundary of direct & reverberant field.  Mix to taste.

Maybe I'll try out the Studio Projects LSD2...or a couple of them...

Gahh...GAS is a terrible thing.  (to self) Remember, Scott, cheap WORKS.

Scott Stillwell

The 603 is pretty nice on acoustic guitar as well.


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